Most Fatal Types of Cancer

About 1.7 million new cases of cancer are expected to be diagnosed throughout the year 2013, with about 580,000 deaths from cancer anticipated. Approximately one in four deaths in the United States stems from cancer-related complications. While these numbers are high, the rate of new cancer cases in the United States has been declining since the 1990s. Continuing research, cancer awareness campaigns, and a general shift in health habits may be responsible for the decline.

Most Common Fatal Types of Cancer

In the United States in 2013, the most common type of cancer diagnosed was prostate cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 238,000 new cases are expected to be diagnosed annually. Approximately 30,000 of these cases are expected to be fatal each year.

At least 40,000 new cases of each of the following cancers are expected to be diagnosed annually in the United States:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Rectal cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Renal cancer
  • Leukemia


Breast cancer and lung cancer account for nearly 500,000 of the new cancer cases each year. While the number of each of these types of cancer that will be diagnosed is very similar, lung cancer results in almost three times the number of fatalities that breast cancer does. Certain cancers may be very common but highly treatable, reducing the risk of fatality.

Most Fatal Types of Cancer

Lung cancer is responsible for more than 28 percent of all cancer deaths, claiming the most lives of any type of cancer. It is not necessarily the most fatal type of cancer, as more people are diagnosed with lung cancer than most other types. Approximately half of those diagnosed with lung cancer will not survive for more than five years. Smoking is still the leading cause of lung cancer, and patients that do not quit after being diagnosed have a lower likelihood of survival.

Pancreatic cancer has the lowest rate of survival once diagnosed, claiming the lives of over 80 percent of those diagnosed, making it the most fatal type of cancer. This is in part due to delayed diagnosis and misdiagnosis of this type of cancer. Pancreatic cancer often does not show any symptoms until the cancer has metastasized past the point of effective treatment.

Leukemia is also one of the most fatal types of cancer once diagnosed, with nearly half of all cases resulting in death. Colon and rectal cancers are also highly fatal, killing over one-third of those diagnosed. Thyroid cancer has the highest rate of survival of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the United States, with about 97 percent of diagnosed cases responding favorably to treatment.

Cancer Awareness and Mortality Rates

Prior to 1987, breast cancer yielded more fatalities than lung cancer. However, enhancements in treatment of breast cancer, coupled with campaigns about self breast exams have helped to severely lower fatality rates from breast cancer. While breast cancer is still one of the most commonly diagnosed, the survival rate is over 80 percent.

Prostate cancer has seen similar success with awareness campaigns and treatments, going from a 64 percent survival rate in 1973 to about 90 percent survival rate today. Doctors’ participation in recommending prostate cancer screenings has increased the commonality of prostatectomies. This has made the cancer far more likely to be caught in early stages than ever before, increasing the likelihood of survival, as well as the quality of life after treatment.

Major improvements have also been made in the most commonly prescribed types of cancer treatment, including radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery. The advent of endoscopic surgery has made it possible for those with certain types of cancer to undergo surgery and leave the office within hours, with two days or less needed to recover. Cancer research continues on a daily basis, and new discoveries are expected to continue to increase survival rates and improve treatment options.




“Cancer Facts and Figures 2013.” American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society, n.d. Web. 12 Nov 2013. <;.

“Cancer Prevention and Control.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 Oct 2013. Web. 12 Nov 2013. <>.

“Common Cancer Types.” National Cancer Institute. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 25 Jan 2013. Web. 12 Nov 2013. <>.

“Prostate Cancer Awareness: Survival rate has soared .” City of Hope. City of Hope, 01 Sep 2013. Web. 12 Nov 2013. <>.